Taking vitamin D supplements alongside standard asthma medication seems to massively reduce the risk of those who have asthma from suffering severe attacks. The independent Cochrane review, which looked at nine clinical trials of how the vitamin impacts those with asthma, found that there was a clear cut in the risk of severe attacks that required a visit to hospital, from 6 percent to 3 percent.
Asthma is thought to affect as many as 5.4 million people in the UK alone, leading to someone, somewhere having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack every 10 seconds. This results in 185 people being hospitalized and three of them dying each day due to the condition. This means that the drop in risk of people suffering a severe attack by 50 percent could have a significant impact on saving those afflicted by the condition.
“While this research shows promise, more evidence is needed to conclusively show whether Vitamin D can reduce asthma attacks and symptoms,” Dr Erika Kennington, from the charity Asthma UK, told BBC News. “With so many different types of asthma it could be that Vitamin D may benefit some people with the condition but not others. Asthma UK's research centres are working hard to discover how and why Vitamin D affects asthma symptoms and if it could be a potential treatment in the future.”
This latest review of the evidence doesn’t look into why the supplements appear to cut the risk, but it is not the first to identify the link. An earlier laboratory study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that vitamin D reduced the levels of a molecule known as IL-17A. This molecule is thought to play a role in the misfiring of the immune system that is typical of those suffering from asthma, and the research found that vitamin D had an effect on how much IL-17A was produced by white blood cells.
While they had no way of confirming whether or not the same thing is occurring in the body, or what impact it may have on those suffering from asthma, it could provide a potential mechanism through which the additional supplements work. Further ongoing clinical trials are investigating whether or not vitamin D may have a role to play in improving the symptoms of those suffering from the condition, though together with the results from this latest review, there may be something in the findings.